Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Baby Quails - Awe they're so cute!

About four months ago we hatched a batch of baby quails, anticipating quail eggs in 7 weeks.  Lacking enough acreage to legally raise chickens, we turned to game birds.  Quail stood out from the selection for many reasons: they're small, quiet, quick to mature and produce, and their eggs are nutritionally superior to other domestic poultry.  Quail eggs are considered a delicacy in many countries, and in Brazil it is common to eat them raw in smoothies.  They seemed perfect for our needs.

However, it turned out reading and research could not prepare me for the unforgiving reality of the food web.

Three quails taking a sand bath together
Life truly is delicate.  Some of the quails died, some were born ill, some were eaten by preditors, some escaped...  From the small 12 foot deep patch of forest behind our house, various before unseen creatures emerged.  Suddenly we had ground hogs, snakes, and even a large neighborhood cat.  We remodeled their pen following each tragedy, but were none the less outsmarted by a new infiltrator.  This is the quail pen we'll be getting next.

With all these events, I'm amazed I've kept my two kids unharmed and healthy for so many years!

I found a woman on craigslist, Cindy, who raises all kinds of avian, rabbits and farm animals.  She offered to take my last two surviving quails.  The two survivors were both cocks.  Without a hen in the roost they seemed awfully lonely.  The largest Brown Cortonix cock would crow all day long.  Hearing his cries pulled at my heart and transmitted immutable reminder of my failure as a quail mama.  

Cindy's Quail Coop, also houses Pigeons and Doves
I tried to convince Mari to cook them but he refused.  And I couldn't muster up the courage.  I'm so grateful we found Cindy to adopt them.  She has over 200 quails that produce 8 dozen eggs a day!  When I dropped the little guys off, they sincerely looked blissful in a giddy poultry way.  At least the big guy did.  The little guy may have been a bit frightened.

Visiting her farm turned out to be better than a trip to the Reston Petting Zoo.  Cindy's not a full time farmer; she's got an office day job.  But she's devoted and hooked on caring for animals and producing her own food.  She sells rabbits and quail eggs, enough to cover the feed costs for the rest of the animals.

A Rex rabbit - softest fur that feels like velvet. This boy is a show rabbit
Cindy gave us a tour and answered our million questions about how build a better enclosure for quails.

Various Chicken Breeds and some Guinea Birds
We had her address in Aldie, but couldn't spot the house number from the street.  Instead we found her by following a flock of Guinea birds roaming wild in the neighborhood.  Guinea serve as scout birds because they will scream if predators approach.  They also eat up all the area ticks!

you know you needed to see that
eggs all over
Old goats
Emu.  (they scare me)
Cindy even soothed my conscious by telling her own stories of the many predators that robbed her of quails in the early years.  She sent us off with three dozen hatching eggs.

Now we're on our second batch of baby quails.  Mari made a trip to Lowe's and came back with supplies to reinforce the quail coop.  He's not done building it yet, but hopefully next week.

Various breeds hatched: Texas White, Brown, Golden, Tuxedo, Tibetan
Twenty two little quails hatched from the three dozen eggs.  That's over a 50% hatch rate, which ain't bad.  I can't explain the emotion seeing a little one emerge from the egg.  They come out with such determination.  Sometimes quickly and sometimes very slowly.  If you shine a light in the incubator, all the hatched birds will flock over and start chirping and stepping on each other to try to get a closer look.  You're not supposed to open the incubator until all have hatched.

Hanging out at the water cooler
Until their permanent home is built, they are living in our room with a heat lamp.   For these photos I adjusted the white balance to try to offset the red hue.  Hopefully you can get a sense for their color.  The light ones are a tint yellow.  Their feathers should grow whiter with time.

Playing on their "Playground"  tunnel
I have to say they seem rather confused.  I think they're wondering where their mommies are hiding.  Nene keeps asking me that, "Where's their mommy?"

"We are their mommy."  I say.  But that does not appease her.

Water bowl with some rocks so they do not slip and fall
Our baby quails were born on July 4th and are almost three weeks old now.  They've begun to sprout wing feathers.  I ordered three thousand organic meal worms to supplement their diet with added fat and protein.
These meal worms were raised on organic wheat germ
They like carrots
So now we're raising quails and meal worms in our bedroom.  We've started our own little biosphere up in here!

If you're interested in Cindy's Rabbits or Quail eggs email me and I'll pass you on her contact info.


  1. I know how late this is, but just an inquiry, what kind of quails were you guys taking care of? (Like the species). Thanks!

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